April 22, 2015
The Big Picture - 'Tried By Fire' The 84th Division WW2
This is a mid-1960’s episode of 'The Big Picture', a series of half-hour documentary and current events films produced by the US Department of Defense/US Army from about 1950 to the mid-70's, and broadcast on ABC-TV from 1951-1964.
Each episode covered a specific topic of military interest, from the history of the US Army in America's wars (this episode describes the 84th Infantry Division's battles in WW2) to the latest weapons and equipment, and its more peaceful activities outside of warfare, like the education and training opportunities it offers to enlistees. During that time, young American men were still subject to mandatory military conscription, and many were not enthusiastic about it, to say the least. The Big Picture was intended to present the Army's positive aspects, yet was fairly honest about the harrowing nature of combat, as seen with the veterans describing WW2. Although 'The Big Picture' could be dismissed as Cold War 'propaganda' it doesn't come off that way. It's not aggressive or jingoistic, nor does it advocate anything except service in the Army of that era.
It's proud and righteous emphasis on the US's role in defeating Fascism in WW2 is an example of the belief back then that an individual's wartime service deserved our respect. But by the late 60's, the Vietnam War's insoluble and never-ending bloodymindedness led to a sharp reversal of that attitude, which seems to have ended the series. Since then, respect for military service has never fully returned to the US military.
It often featured narration by notable actors of the day including Robert Taylor, John Wayne, and in this episode, a young Paul Newman(!)